LingQ Russian Review: Great for Vocabulary and Reading Skills

By Ari Helderman
November 18, 2022

When I first traveled to Moscow in 2016, I had a big problem.

I could not understand anything native Russian speakers said to me.

I couldn’t even understand anything that I was reading, except for very basic text.

So what do you think I did?

Back home, I found a sketchy list of the top 1000 most common Russian words list…

… and manually added all of them into a spaced repetition app.

And then spent 10 to 20 minutes daily on the app for a couple of months.

What were the results?

Well, I now knew the 1000 most common words. And my reading comprehension and understanding skills grew a lot

But at what cost?

  • My thumbs were sore for 2 weeks after manually typing in 1000 Russian words (and their translation) on my small smartphone.
  • Occasionally I started using bizarre words because the list I used wasn’t appropriately vetted (like saying отозваться for ‘reply’ instead of the normal отвечать).
  • I had NO clue where the correct stresses were since there was no audio for the words in my app.

Recently, one of my students told me that whenever she found an interesting article online in Russian, she would always add it to her LingQ app.

She told me it greatly helped her improve her reading comprehension and she was now using it as her main spaced repetition vocabulary app.

My curiosity peaked, and I decided to sign up for LingQ

How Important is Russian Vocabulary for You?

Before we dive into my experience with LingQ, I quickly want to talk about whether YOU should be using LingQ or not.

Since LingQ is mainly used for learning vocabulary (through context), it makes sense that vocabulary should be one of your priorities, when you sign up.

If you’ve been learning Russian for less than 2 years, vocabulary is definitely one of your top priorities.

Without enough words, you cannot speak. You also can’t understand anything that native speakers say. And you can’t even read a simple news article online.

Just like me when I first was in Moscow after just a couple of months of learning Russian.

So LingQ is great for people that are in the active stage of building vocabulary.

Now, does this mean that if you’ve been learning Russian for over 2 years, you should not be signing up for LingQ?

Not necessarily.

If you’ve been learning for longer than 2 years, AND are comfortable with your level of vocabulary and reading skills, it may be better to just focus on consuming content such as real books, audiobooks, movies, series, and video games.

If that’s not you, continue reading.

LingQ Russian Review

Let’s quickly check what exactly LingQ has to offer:

If you go to their main page, this is what you see:

lingq homepage

And their 3 main selling points are:

But how do they do that?

Well, the main functionality of LingQ can be described as an assisted reading tool, combined with a personal spaced repetition program.

If that sounds difficult, let me explain how I used it:

My Experience with LingQ

Let me give you an example of how you can use LingQ.

In 2018 on a summer vacation, I read the Russian book Пичник на Обочине (Roadside Picnic). It’s a classic Soviet science fiction book by the Brothers Strugatsky.

This is another book of the Brothers Strugatsky – I gave the Roadside Picnic book away to a friend.

Back then I was able to understand most of the words – and the plot.

I had wanted to read the book much earlier…

… but I couldn’t because my Russian skills weren’t good enough.

When I logged in to LingQ recently, this caught my eye:

So naturally, I clicked on it and started reading.

Here’s How the LingQ Reader Works

Step #1: You choose a text you want to read and click it.

Step #2: You start reading.

Step #3: When you encounter a word you don’t know, you can click it and it shows you the translation.

Step #4: You can then save the word to your own personal word bank – if you find the word relevant of course

Step #5: You now understand what is written, because you just checked the translation.

Step #6: Now you can continue reading and repeat the process until you’ve read the entire text

Step #7: Most native LingQ texts also have audio, so you can turn that on to hear the correct pronunciation

Step #8: By the end of the text, you’ve filled up your word bank with new words you want to learn.

What are the results?

You were able to read a text that was ABOVE your current skills. And you’ve made a list of relevant words you’d like to learn.

But how do you use this list of words now?

Here’s How the LingQ Vocabulary Repetition Works

Step #1: You can find all your added words in the Vocabulary tab

Step #2: You press review

Step #2b: Optional: go to settings and put checks for the things you want. I prefer to only use Flashcard and Reverse Flashcard.

Step #3: You get a Russian or English word and need to ask yourself if you knew the respective English or Russian translation. Each word is also shown in the context of how you learned it, this makes it easier to learn/remember.

Step #4: Press ‘Flip card’ – if you knew the word, press the green checkmark.

Step #5: If you didn’t, press the cross.

Step #6: The LingQ algorithm uses this feedback to show you the words you find difficult more often.

Step #7: You get a new word and repeat step 3 to 5.

Once you’re done with your session, you can always learn more if you still have the motivation and energy.

I think the default amount of 10 may be a bit little, so I recommend upping it to 20.

It still only takes you 5 minutes to go through.

In general, when doing flashcards (not just in LingQ), it’s good to keep a maximum amount of time that you spend per flashcard. Give yourself 20 seconds, and if you still don’t know the word, just press X and continue.

The algorithm will show you this word again soon enough, and the pure repetition will ensure you learn it.

Now, I was disappointed to see that there was only 1 small part of the book Пикник на Обочине…

… but luckily LingQ allows you to import your own materials.

So that’s what I tried to do next:

How to Import Your Own Material into LingQ

Step #1: First, you need to find your text – for me I just searched online for пикник на обочине онлайн читать (roadside picnic read online) and that quickly gave me the full text.

Step #2: Go to ‘Lessons’ and click Import – then choose ‘Import Lesson’.

Step #3: You can copy the text you want to add and paste it into the ‘Input text’ field. There are also options to add Epub, PDF, Docx, TXT, and more file extensions.

Step #4: Press ‘Save and generate lesson’, click ‘View lesson’ and there you go!

Step #5: Now I can start reading the book I wanted to read.

This is great if you want to read an old book or have bought a Russian ebook online. If you bought something online, be sure to keep it as a ‘Private Lesson’, so you don’t accidentally share it and break copyright laws.

Unfortunately, LingQ does not offer to add stress marks to the text you’re adding…

… so I recommend you do that yourself with the help of a simple free tool called russiangram.com.

Before copying your text into LingQ, copy it into Russiangram, and press ‘Annotate’. Now copy the annotated text into LingQ.

This will help you to understand right away where the stress is in each word. Which is incredibly helpful when you’re trying to speak Russian.

What Do Other People Think of LingQ?

I personally really like LingQ and wish I had found it when I was in the earlier stages of learning Russian.

After almost 7 years of learning Russian, my vocabulary is now quite extensive, and I can already read virtually any Russian book. So the value I’m getting at this stage is limited.

However, if I would’ve found this app when I had just been learning for a couple of months to 2 years, it would’ve right away allowed me to read real Russian books.

And the spaced repetition feature would’ve allowed me to quickly work on relevant vocabulary.

But that’s just my opinion.

As I said, one of my students really likes it and uses it for every text she’s reading (she even imported a modern Russian interpretation of the Bible so she can combine her Bible studies with learning Russian).

Only after doing my own review, I looked for what other people online thought of LingQ. (I didn’t want their reviews to influence my opinion)

Here is what David Masters from Fluent in 3 Months has to say:

david masters fluent in 3 months about lingq

And here is what Tara from All Language Resources has to say:

tara all language resources about lingq

I think Tara is right that if LingQ is your very first introduction to the Russian language, it may not be the best choice.

But if you’ve already spent a couple of weeks or months learning, and you know the basics, it’s a great tool to quickly start reading more advanced texts. And it helps you to work effectively on your vocabulary.

If you’ve only JUST started learning Russian, you need to work on your basics a bit more before you start LingQ. In that case, I’d recommend a simple spaced repetition app, such as Ankidroid.

Final Words on LingQ

I think LingQ is a great tool to have when you’re learning Russian.

It allows you to read above your current skill level since you can easily look up what a word means.

But it also helps you quickly learn relevant words, because you’re learning them in context.

And one thing I hadn’t mentioned yet is that their app also works great.

I always love it when a product has a good app.

I imported one of my own videos to see how it works.

Because that means you can use it anywhere you want.

Waiting in line in a shop?

Sitting on the train commuting to work?

Or just laying on the couch bored after dinner?

The step to open the app and spend a couple of minutes learning Russian suddenly becomes so easy.

This makes it much more likely that you will practice often – and that your practice becomes a consistent habit.

And those 2 things are key when it comes to learning Russian well.

If you’re interested in learning with LingQ, just click LingQ and try it out for free.

About the Author

My name is Ari Helderman and I help people learn Russian through videos and blog posts where I share my experience.   I have been learning Russian since 2016. I often get mistaken for a native speaker these days, so I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't if you want to speak Russian well.

Ari Helderman

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